Seth Clark's Reviews > No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam

No god but God by Reza Aslan
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's review
May 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: islam
Read in May, 2011

As someone who is relatively unfamiliar with Islam, aside from a few conversations with some scholars of Islam and the acknowledgment of the 99 names of God in Islam brought up in a lesson against anthropomorphism in an Introduction to Religion course, this book is a great introduction to the "Origins and Evolution of Islam," as the subtitle suggests.

Aslan treats the origins and evolution of Islam as a very human and historically-informed religion began by a man of an Arabic 7th century, Muhammad. The Prophet, according to Aslan, struggled with his reception of the Quran and if it had been for the comfort and support of his first wife, would have probably not been able to fully deliver it. The overall portrayal of the Prophet as a man of his time who initially struggled with his call but aimed for social justice and egalitarian society is an interesting one.

Aslan continues this trend throughout the text and shows the very human and flexible side of Islam. However, his overall argument about the current state of Islam is that in a struggle over the interpretation of Islam and how it should be established. Aslan has interesting remarks on the process of democracy and holds out hope for an Islamic Democracy as well. His basic argument concerning this is that democracy has be indigenous with the people and has to borrow a moral frame from a religion, say Islam for the Middle East or Christianity for America. Only then, with pluralism as the core of democracy, can a democratic government move towards the secularization of laws and morality.

Overall, I highly recommend this very human and historical yet slightly idealistic approach to Islam. However, if were not for groups of people who struggled towards an ideal state, what would be accomplished? As Aristotle says, "We are what we do; therefore, excellence is not a single act but a habit."
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